Independence in Bend

Date: July 4 / Origin: Olive Lake, OR / Campsite: Matt’s Parents’ House in Redmond, OR / Time in Westy: 5+ hours

Another scorcher of a day! We woke up and hastily packed up our campsite. There was no use sticking around to see what bear or murderer had been lurking in the woods ready to eat us.

We had a long drive to Redmond, where Matt’s parents had graciously agreed to let us stop, do laundry, and shower.

Today was 7 days since I’d last showered. I could not wait.

We stopped at a tiny town called Fork Creek (I think) for breakfast at a little cafe with a few people puttering around.

To give you an idea of the kind of town we were in, here is a conversation I overheard between two very elderly men at a table beside me:

“Can I join you here? It’s real lonesome sittin’ by myself.”

“Sure, sure. Come on, sit down.”

“Heh. You hear about Bernie Sanders’ wife?”


“Caught with one of them young boys. Havin’ an affair.”

“You don’t say.”

“Heh. Heh. Course not. But they’re being investigated for tax evasion.”

“Oh. Haha, ha, that was a good one.”

I ordered some eggs and Laura and I did some research on the Oregon Trail. Breakfast was tasty, given I’d been nibbling a stale cinnamon bun in the van for 3 days.

We hit the road with thoughts of warm welcomes and clean showers overpowering the sweat that dripped down our legs in the hot Oregon sun.

Matt’s parents live in a quaint suburban neighborhood 20 minutes outside of Bend, where we planned to watch the fireworks that evening. His mother was sweeping the stoop in her apron when we arrived, and waved to us in excited greeting. Their sunlit house, hospitable warmth, and well-manicured back lawn felt too clean for two dirty, sweaty young women, but they welcomed us in anyway.

After a brief chat, we were shown to the laundry room where we immediately washed our clothes. Then, Matt’s mother, Susan, led me upstairs to a cozy bathroom with clean towers and – behold! – a hot shower.

I think I was probably in there for close to an hour, but I can’t be sure. I did it all. Shaved, cut my nails to get the dirt out from under them, washed my hair, washed my face. The water swirling down the drain was brown.

She even had a hair dryer. The girl in the mirror was a stranger to the greasy-haired, sweat-stained one that had entered the house earlier.

While Laura showered, I talked with Matt’s parents about teaching and fly fishing. About halfway into our conversation, another couple arrived for the Fourth of July party they were throwing.

I thought we might be intruding, but after a few glasses of wine, we all sat outside together talking about the Oregon Trail and firing questions at one of the friends who had come to dine.

“If you’re traveling up to Portland, you should stop off in Independence,” he told us. “That’s the end of the Oregon Trail. Independence, Missouri to Independence, Oregon.”

Excited, we added that to our list. Fresh-washed, fresh-clothed, and a little wine-bright, we hopped in the van and headed into Bend for what we imagined would be stellar fireworks.

We started the evening at Crux Brewery, a welcoming place with crisp beer, located on the outskirts of town. Their large parking lot offered a good campsite for the evening, and the bartender told us we probably wouldn’t get towed. That was promising.

After drinking, we decided to head into town to see the fireworks better. We were told they got fired off of Pilot Butte, a mountain in town.

“Try to get a view of the mountain,” a girl told us. “Sometimes it catches on fire.”

Entertainment seemed hard to come by in Bend.

We decided to cycle into town rather than drive, which involved us renting a bike since Ryan’s street bike was too high for either of us to ride. Once we found a park in town, we leaned the bikes against a tree and got comfortable in the grass. On the sidewalk in front of us, locals launched fireworks of their own – until the spectacle began.

All I could think, throughout the ten minutes or so of fireworks, was that there is no place I’d rather watch fireworks than Beach Bar in Asbury Park. But, I reasoned, I would probably never be in Bend, Oregon on the Fourth of July again, and I refocused my joy on the fact that there was soft, cold grass underneath me. That was something I could cherish, too, since grass is hard to come by in Manila.

The finale was a brief sputter that lasted half a minute. I could make so many inappropriate jokes about this fireworks display.

Laura and I looked at each other.

“Is that it?” she asked.

It seemed so. But Bend, we’d heard, was a hopping town. Surely we could hit up some bars downtown and celebrate America’s freedom.


One bar was open downtown, and everyone was heading toward it, a sad exodus of party-seekers being filtered down some shady backstreets toward a large dive run by a single bartender. She was overworked and tired, and not attentive.

“She’s only serving locals,” said a woman perched at the bar, shaking her head. “We’ve been here since there were only 4 other patrons, and she’s barely acknowledged us.”

Laura and I managed to get some bourbon on the rocks, which we took outside. Finally, we were sipping drinks and in the middle of good conversation, when a man sitting next to me leaned over and said, “I’m sorry to ask you this, but do you ladies have a place I could shower? I am desperate for a shower.”

Oh, the irony. We laughed and told him we’d been desperate for showers, too, and that we were traveling in a van that did not have a shower.

He seemed distraught about this, and then began telling us his story. It turned out that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, and he ended our night by playing us some pretty cool music he’d written. Still, it wasn’t quite the Fourth of July we’d been anticipating. The mood of the evening had changed, so we took our van out of Bend and back to Matt’s parents’ house where I slept in Matt’s childhood bed and Laura stayed in the van with the dogs.

It wasn’t the most patriotic, explosive Independence Day, but it’s one I’ll remember for a while.

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